Social Workers Are Ready
Wow, it is 2021! A new year after an extremely long, unsettling, and uncertain 2020. Yet, 2021 doesn’t feel to be much different than its predecessor.
Fortunately, social workers are prepared to help their clients work through a number of continuing crises.
While public health and infectious disease experts are saying the COVID-19 virus is plateauing, it is still taking too many lives daily. These patients who do not die from the disease are often left with long-term medical complications that the health care industry has no prior experience in managing. These “long haulers” are presenting the medical community with unknowns and the practice of caring for these patients has moved into the “on-the-job training,” trial-and-error paradigm.
When the virus was first discovered in the United States in 2020, the unemployment rate soared from an all-time low of 3.5% to 14.8% in April of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate decreased to 6.3% in January of 2021. The decrease in unemployment related to the pandemic is an impressive statistic, but does not reflect the damage months of unemployment inflicted on those who lost jobs.
The financial crisis extends deeper than those who lost jobs. It extends to the landlords of the individuals that lost jobs who now in turn are not receiving the income they need to support themselves and their families. National policies have extended or delayed evictions leaving landlords, especially “mom and pop” ones, with few options to provide for their own financial security.
The extraordinary increase in individuals needing food assistance has soared from those with ongoing long-term food insecurity to others who have never before had to accept the kindness of food assistance. Feeding America reports that, on average, food banks are reporting an increase in demand of over 55% during the pandemic, with close to 4 out of 10 people needing this assistance for the first time.
Policies blocking disconnection of utilities for those unable to pay their power bills during the pandemic have staved off an immediate crisis. However, eventually these bills will come due and the who/how/when details are unknown. Top experts in this area believe residential and small business customers may owe a combined total between $35 billion to $40 billion for services provided.
The education of our nation’s children is more than just a political argument. The teachers and parents agree that learning is best overseen in the classroom. The school room environment provides more benefits than just the learning needs of children; it also affects developing and improving their social skills while often providing the only sure food of their day. Online learning has been embraced as an alternative, but it is still very questionable whether it is able to meet all the needs of the children.
The feelings of isolation resulting from the pandemic safety guidelines are very real and are not going to stop here. Those who were diagnosed with a mental illness prior to COVID-19 are still struggling, along with those who have been newly diag
nosed. The social stigma associated with a mental illness, combined with limitations on mental health providers, have created a large, vulnerable population. The lack of insurance, or being underinsured, also continues to be a problem for this underserved group.
These scenarios are the headlines that fill the daily news reports. However, these scenarios are made up of real people dealing with real-life crises. These “real people” are also facing scenarios that social workers are prepared to tackle.
Social workers have completed the mandatory educational requirements, worked in a variety of venues to gain experience, and completed countless hours of continuing education to keep current as they try to help their clients. The needs of their clients are only going to increase, and the dedication and determination of these social workers can make a positive difference in their client’s lives.
If you have never needed a social worker, you are blessed. If you have needed a social worker, say “thank you” as they celebrate Social Work Month in March.